M A I N   N E W S

Ishrat’s killing shocks neighbours
Shiv Kumar
Tribune News Service

Mumbai, June 18
Living in the shadow of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, the largely Muslim population of Mumbra on the outskirts of Mumbai has learnt to put up with the rough side of the law. Police searches and summons to the local police station became a regular feature in the down-market suburb after Abu Hamza, who escaped from police custody here, was killed along with his associates while storming Parliament in December 2001.

While much of Mumbai did not pay heed when 19-year-old Ishrat Jahan Shamim Raza was gunned down with three male companions last Tuesday for allegedly planning a mission to kill Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, it shocked residents of the area. Especially Ishrat’s neighbours in the Rashid Compound, where people eke out a living doing odd jobs, who knew the pretty collegian as a studious girl enveloped in her books.

“I can’t believe she was involved with the terrorists,” says Ibrahim Khan, a local grocer. She and her sister Zeenat helped with the family finances by taking tuitions, says Khan. Still the conservative Khan is a bit surprised that the shy, reserved Ishrat took a trip to Gujarat with three unrelated men. “We don’t know what happened, maybe the truth will come out soon,” Khan said.

Ishrat’s mother, Shamima and other relatives have already left for Gujarat to bring back the girl’s body. Those at home have had their dose of pesky journalists and have clammed up. “There is nothing for us to add,” says a bearded male who claims to be a relative.

The one-room shanty is unremarkable with clothes strewn about. “Yesterday, the police came here searching for clues and ransacked the place,” says Salima Bi who is visiting. The community has closed behind the family of four sisters and two brothers, who along with their mother tried to survive Mumbai after their father, a small contractor, died some years ago.

Neighbours discreetly admit that the family hailing from Bihar was not known to have contacts in Gujarat. Lingering doubts about Ishrat have been stilled with politicians and assorted social workers descending on Mumbra.

Abu Azim Azmi, leader of the Samajwadi Party in Mumbai, was the first to arrive. He even offered to pay for Ishrat’s mother to go to Gujarat. Azmi is said to be in Gujarat as well.

The controversial Raza Academy has gone even further and demanded a CBI inquiry into the matter. “If only the Gujarat police had arrested any of the terrorists, the whole truth would have come out, but the police seems to be more concerned about keeping its political bosses happy,” the Academy’s Secretary Mohammed Saeed Noori told reporters here.

Local residents are also coming around to believe that they are being targeted merely because of their religion. “The police has become very strict about who we rent houses to,” says Shaikh Rehman, a local real estate agent. House owners and brokers have to now ensure that new tenants get a police clearance before they can move into a new place. “I don’t know if Hindus elsewhere in Mumbai are similarly harassed,” Rehman said.

The Maharashtra police has also made it clear that there is no evidence linking Ishrat to any terror group. “We are still investigating the matter,” says Assistant Commissioner of Police Amar Jadhav of the Thane police.

Other police officials, however, feel that Ishrat may have been involved with one of the four men, who may have had links with terror groups. “I am not in a position to comment on the Mumbai girl killed in the Ahmedabad encounter yet. However, it is incorrect to assume that a college student cannot be involved in a terror organisation. After all look at the people arrested from SIMI,” said Satyapal Singh, Joint Commissioner of Police, Crime, Mumbai.

Thane police officials say investigations into the background of the other three youths would reveal more on the matter.

Ishrat’s teachers and classmates too give her a clean chit. Dr Ajit Singh, Principal of the Khalsa College where Ishrat was studying in BSc-II, said she was a good student who was not known to miss her lectures. He told reporters that Ishrat had taken the tough mathematics, physics and statistics as her subjects.


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